Understanding the willingness of farms to utilize lung scanning in their cattle operations

Final report for FNC20-1252

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $26,745.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Hunley Creek Heifer Farm
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Tabitha Steckler Hurst
Hunley Creek Heifer Farm
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Project Information

Description of operation:

My name is Tabitha Steckler Hurst and I am the third generation to be owning/operating Hunley Creek Heifer Farm alongside my husband Bryan and my dad. My grandfather moved our family to this homestead in 1958 and we have been farming the land ever since. We are located in southern Indiana on a diversified 600 acre farm. We raise beef backgrounding cattle, commercial cow/calf cattle, and dairy replacement heifers. We also run a custom silage and hay business along with growing hay for sale and row crop production. Before receiving this grant our farm practiced sustainable practices with our cropping and hay systems. We always rotationally cropped as well as plant cover crops on our fields after we harvest the crops. Also, rotational grazing for our cow/calf pairs has been important to our family. I graduated with my Masters degree in Dairy Management and Nutrition from Purdue University in August of 2020 and have recently joined the farm with my husband and father. Because we raise a large number of animals, animal health and sustainability has been one of the major priorities on our farm. During my time at Purdue, I learned new ways that could allow our farm and others to be more sustainable with our animal health and management practices. Therefore, these learnings have led me to this grant project to identify if lung scanning technology will allow farms to become even more sustainable than they already are.

Summary:

Calves with lung damage have reduced growth, are older at first calving, and produce less milk in their first lactation, all which negatively impact farm profitability and sustainability. Even though this is known, bovine respiratory disease continues to challenge farmers because of the error associated with visual diagnosis. To mitigate this variation, thoracic ultrasonography (lung scoring) has become a quantitative way to study respiratory disease. Previous research has shown lung scanning to be an effective way to identify lung damage.  However, this technology’s practicality is not well understood when used in production settings. This project seeks to study how beneficial and cost-effective lung scanning could be for both dairy and beef operations. Using lung scanning to select healthier animals reduces the cost of raising replacement heifers and provides economic sustainability. By using lung scanning in beef backgrounding operations, there could be a decrease in antibiotic use and treatment costs. Therefore, the aim of this study is to introduce lung scanning to southwestern Indiana and understand what the benefits might be to the farming community.

Project Objectives:

 

  1. Lung scan dairy replacement heifers around weaning (60 days) and four months as well as periodic body weights to gather growth data and best practices for using lung scanning on commercial dairy farms (ex. What is the best age to lung scan calves or do calves need to be scanned multiple times during their life?). 
  2. Determine validity, usability, and practicality of utilizing lung scanning on beef backgrounding operation.
  3. Report findings from lung scanning results and detailed overview of the lung scanning process at the Indiana Dairy Producers Annual Meeting (Meeting Brochure) following with a post survey identifying the willingness of farms to utilize this lung scanning service. 

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Craig Lindauer - Producer
  • Alex Lueken - Producer

Research

Materials and methods:

Lung scanning procedure is described in the attached Purdue extension article: 

Lung Scanning Purdue Extension Article

 

The objectives of the study were to

  1. Find the best age and management period to lung scan dairy replacement heifers.
  2. Validate if lung scanning would work in a beef backgrounding operation and how practical it would be to use this technology.
  3. Using outreach and talking with cooperative farmers, determine if there is a want or willingness for farms to adapt this technology on their farms.

To obtain these objectives dairy calves were lung scanned on two different dairy farms at different ages to determine the best age to implement lung scanning. A program for implementing beef backgrounding calves was developed and calves were lung scanned to determine the validity of using this technology. I identified if it was beneficial to lung scan calves upon arrival to the backgrounding farm.

Throughout the course of the grant period, the methods shifted as I continued to learn more about lung scanning dairy heifers and beef backgrounding calves. Up until the Indiana Dairy Producers meeting, I was lung scanning calves at Lueken Dairy at weaning (60 days old) and at 5.5 months old (before they leave the heifer raiser). At Lindauer Dairy, I was scanning calves at 3 weeks old and again at weaning (60 days old). After lung scanning these different ages for 10 months I rerouted the way I was lung scanning. Throughout the course of those 10 months of scanning and doing preliminary data analysis for the IDP meeting I shifted my lung scanning procedures to add in lung scanning calves over the course of 3-4 weeks as they entered a group housing system. After scanning calves several times, I noticed that lung damage could possibly be healed over time, so at Lindauer Dairy Farm, I lung scanned calves and captured pictures to document how lung damage could change over time. Throughout this process I also informed the farmer when I had a calf with lung damage and advised them to treat with antibiotics.

During the second half of the grant I also kept tract of the animals that were lung scanned during the first half of the grant. For the Lindauer dairy farm, calves were weighed between 300 and 550 days old and a portion of them were lung scanned. At both Lindauer and Lueken dairy I kept track of heifer reproduction as well. Those heifers that were scanned during the first half of the grant calves were old enough to go through the breeding program and be confirmed pregnant.

Several outreach projects were completed during the course of the grant period. I presented data at the Indiana Dairy Producers meeting on June 22, 2021 and those in attendance completed a survey after listening to the presentation. Additionally, a magazine article was created with the data gathered from the grant and it was published in the January 2022 edition of Progressive Dairy Magazine. Final reports were created for each supporting farm with all the data gathered during the grant period.

Research results and discussion:

Results Summary

I was able to lung scan calves on three different farms from July 2020 to December 2021 to evaluate the effect of respiratory disease on cattle weight and performance. Below are a portion of results from each farm that participated in the study. Neither dairy farm tracked animal weights or incidence of respiratory disease on their farm before this project. The beef backgrounding farm tracked these aspects but did not analyze them in relation to each other. Therefore, this project has already provided valuable insight for farms to aid in understanding how their management practices affect animal performance. 

Lindauer Dairy Farm:

Total Number of Individual animals Lung Scanned: 232

  • 159 animals scanned for growth data
  • 74 animals scanned over multiple weeks for lung damage observation over time

Birthweight

  • # of calves with Birthweight: 122
  • Average birthweight: 98 pounds
  • Minimum birthweight: 65 pounds
  • Maximum birthweight: 126 pounds
  • No effect of birthweight on the calves’ chance to obtain lung damage

Respiratory Disease

  • 75 of 232 calves treated for respiratory = 32%
  • Average age of treatment: 73 days
  • Calves treated 0-60 d old (only antibiotic treatment with resflor)
    • 40% of the calves who were treated
    • Average age of calves treated in this period: 40 days
  • Calves treated 61 days and older
    • 60% of the calves who were treated
    • Average age of calves treated in this period: 94 days
  • Percentage of calves with lung damage at or after 60 d old (132 heifers)
    • No lung damage: 67%
    • Single side lung damage: 13%
    • Double side lung damage: 20%
    • 15% of heifers had a 5 or 6 on one or both sides of lungs

Growth Measurements

  • ~3 Week Lung Scoring Results (104 heifers)

Score

Age

Weight

ADG

% of animals

1

23

120

0.91629

26.92%

2

23

122

0.907219

41.35%

3

24

121

0.996975

11.54%

4

24

124

0.636158

14.42%

5

21

120

.

3.85%

6

.

.

.

0.96%

 

Lung Condition

Age

Weight

ADG

% of animals

No Damage

23

121

0.92

80%

Single Side

24

125

0.64

13%

Double Side

23

117

0.97

6%

  • ADG of calves at or after 60 d old (132 heifers) broken into individual scores

Score

Average Age

Weight

ADG

% of Animals

1

72

204

1.46

6%

2

73

213

1.55

38%

3

71

199

1.39

23%

4

69

195

1.34

17%

5

74

189

1.25

9%

6

79

189

1.22

7%

 

Lung Condition

Average Age

Weight

ADG

% of Animals

No Damage

72

207

1.53

67%

Single Side

73

211

1.52

13%

Double Side

72

180

1.14

20%

 

  • Heifers at Hunley Creek
    • 50 heifer’s lungs scanned after arriving at Hunley Creek
      • 3 heifers had lung damage (6%)
      • Lung damage can heal over time
        • Lung damage is not always a set score but a continuum that progresses to higher scores and goes to lower scores over time
        • What are the affects left behind after lung damage heals?
      • Thoughts on heifer growth
        • When heifers were scanned on arrival there was a difference in ADG and ~70-pound reduction in weight
        • However, as animals grew, the inverse occurred and there was an increase in weight and ADG of animals who had lung damage at weaning.
          • This could be the case for several reason
            1. Animals were on a different diet which basically allowed ad libitum consumption once arriving
            2. Not enough number strength to support the findings

Heifer Growth Measurements at Hunley Creek

Lung Condition

ADG from Weaning to Hunley Creek

Weight

Age

% of Animals at Weaning

Heifers between 300-400 D (39 Heifers)

No Lung Damage

1.97

817

378

77%

Lung Damage

1.85

749

379

23%

Heifers between 400-500 D (16 Heifers)

No Lung Damage

1.99

929

435

81%

Lung Damage

1.88

987

486

19%

Heifers between 500-600 D (44)

No Lung Damage

1.73

975

531

64%

Lung Damage

1.91

1069

528

36%

 

Heifers Lung Scanned Over Time

  • The first scan was within the first week of entering group housing
  • All calves included were scanned at least 3 times (56 heifers)
    • 3 were treated prior to entering the first group pen
    • 8 were treated after leaving the first group pen
      • 5 did not have lung damage prior to leaving the first group pen
      • 3 had at least one scan with lung damage prior to leaving the first pen
    • 11 were treated during the first group pen
      • Average age of treatment in this group was 11 days after calves entered group housing
    • The highest amount of lung damage was seen at the 2nd lung scan after entering the group housing system
    • 10 Heifers scanned over time (producer was advised to monitored calves with lung damage after 2nd scan and treat with antibiotics)
      • 8/10 lung damage 2nd scan
      • 3/10 lung damage 4th scan

 

Survival to first breeding

  • 13 calves died out of 232 calves scanned
    • 6% death rate

 

Heifer Breeding

  • 74 who went through the lung scanning program had been bred as of January 2022
  • Breeding Age
    • 62 heifers had weaning lung scans and their first breeding date

Lung Scores by Side

(>4 is Lung Damage)

% of Heifers

Breeding Age (days)

No Lung Damage

68%

466

Single Side Lung Damage

14%

474

Double Side Lung Damage

18%

469

 

Score

(on one or both sides)

% of Heifers

Breeding Age (days)

1 to 3

68%

466

4

16%

469

5 or 6

16%

473

 

  • Pregnancy to First Service
    • 47 heifers had weaning lung scans and were confirmed pregnant/not pregnant at first service
    • 36% total pregnancy to first service

Lung Scores by Side

(>4 is Lung Damage)

% of Heifer

in Category

1st Service Conception Rate

No Lung Damage

60%

36%

Single Sided Lung Damage

19%

67%

Double Side Lung Damage

21%

10%

 

Score

(on one or both sides)

% of Heifer in Category

1st Service Conception Rate

1 to 3

60%

36%

4

19%

56%

5 or 6

21%

20%

 

Antibiotic Treatment

% of Heifer in Category

1st Service Conception Rate

Not Treated

66%

48%

Treated

34%

13%

 

Conception Age

  • 29 heifers had weaning lung scans and were confirmed pregnant
    • Age of conception was calculated based on days pregnant at pregnancy check
    • If you compare animals treated for respiratory disease with antibiotics to their age at conception
      • Not Treated: 482 days
      • Treated: 481 days

Lung Scores by Side

(>4 is Lung Damage)

% of Heifers

Conception Age (days)

No Lung Damage

55%

479

Single Side Lung Damage

28%

485

Double Side Lung Damage

17%

485

 

Score

(on one or both sides)

% of Heifers

Conception Age (days)

1 to 3

55%

479 (15.7 months)

4

24%

470 (15.4 months)

5 or 6

21%

503 (16.5 months)

 

Thoughts based on the year of lung scanning

  1. Lung Scanning Timepoints
    • 3-week lung scan
      • Not many calves were being diagnosed with respiratory disease while calves were in the hutches
      • If calves were sick, they showed more visible signs of respiratory disease
      • Weight and ADG were not impacted by the lung scores during this phase
    •  Weaning/Post-weaning
      • There was a difference in weight and ADG at weaning of calves specifically with lung scores of 5 or 6 or lung damage on both sides of their lugs
        • First group pens around old milk parlor
          1. Calves are getting lung damage during this time period especially during large temperature changes but they are not showing visible symptoms
          2. The majority of lung damage is seen on the 2 weeks after entering this group housing
          3. 40% of calves treated up to 61 days of age
    • Second group pens, old barn with dry cows etc.
        • Some calves leaving with residual lung damage from first group pens and visual symptoms are showing up later in age
          1. 60% of calves are treated after 61 days old with an average of 94 days old
  1.  
  2. The most ideal time period to lung scan calves to most accurately diagnose disease during these timepoints would be 2 weeks after entering the first group housing system.
      • Catch those subclinical calves with lung damage early and have fewer animals entering the next phases with lung damage
    • Areas of improvement to reduce lung damage in the group housing phase
      • Consider intranasal vaccination prior or at grouping (talk with veterinarian) to help with viral spread of respiratory disease. Calves in hutches are in their own individual biome, so when they are grouped together, they are sharing germs even if from one hutch down.
      • Consider monitoring ventilation especially during the times of year with large weather changes
        • Lung scans of calves increased when curtains were down in the group pens by old milk parlor, consider starting a group with the curtains up to see how calves adjust
        • Calves in old barn by dry cows during the summer months have increase amount of lung damage.
  3. Thoughts on heifer growth
    • When heifers were scanned on arrival there was a difference in ADG and ~70-pound reduction in weight
    • However, as animals grew, the inverse occurred and there was an increase in weight and ADG of animals who had lung damage at weaning.
      • This could be the case for several reasons
        • Animals were on a different diet which basically allowed ad libitum consumption once arriving
        • Heifers who have lung damage focus their energy on weight gain instead of reproductive purposes
        • Not enough number strength to support the findings
      • Summary of Heifer Breeding
        • There was not a major difference in heifer age at first breeding
        • 1st service conception rate shows how many heifers are getting pregnant off the first AI
          1. All scenarios showed that heifers who were treated for respiratory or had a large amount of lung damage had a lower 1st service conception percentage
          2. If heifers had lung damage on a single side or scored a 4 they had a higher first service conception rate
            1. 9 heifers in analysis
            2. Single sided lung damage and score of 4 does not affect future heifer productivity
          3. When analyzing age at conception and calves with lung damage on a single side versus both sides had a 6-day increased age of conception. When looking at individual scores, calves who score a 5 or 6 on one or both sides of their lungs had up to 33-day differences in age at conception. Therefore, focus on those animals who have lung score of 5 or 6.
  4. What is the most ideal time to lung scan calves and cull animals based on lung score?
    • Neither 3 weeks or weaning should be the time in which animals are identified for culling. Because lung damage can change over time (proved by the calves scanned over time and pictures) the farm may not accurately identify the correct animals to cull.
      • Suggestion: lung scan calves when you are vaccinating to identify those who should be kept for replacement heifers and those who should be culled
      • Because lung damage can heal over time and the animals will adapt and grow efficiently but not reproduce efficiently you could consider putting those heifers with a 5 or 6 score in a feed lot scenario instead breeding them as a replacement heifer.

 

 

 

Lueken Dairy Farm

Animals Scanned

  • # scanned between 53 and 85 days of age (average 65 d old): 274
  • # scanned between 133 and 222 days of age (average 167): 258

Birthweight

  • # of calves with Birthweight: 189
  • Average birthweight: 93 pounds
  • Minimum birthweight: 50 pounds
  • Maximum birthweight: 132 pounds
  • No effect of birthweight on the calves’ chance to obtain lung damage

Death Rate

  • 124 calves died from ID 9938 to 431 (birthdates: 4/28/2020 to 12/27/2020)
    • Between these dates 429 heifer calves and 124 died
      • 29% death rate
    • % of animals died before 30 days old
      • 56%
    • % of animals died between 30-60 days old
      • 4%
    • % of animals died between 60-100 days old
      • 9%
    • % of animals died between 100-200 days old
      • 22%
    • % of animals died between 200-400 days old
      • 10%

Lung Scanning Statistics

Lung Score at Weaning

Percentage

No Lung Damage

78%

Single Side Lung Damage

15%

Double Side Lung Damage

7%

 

Lung Score at 5.5 months

Percentage

No Lung Damage

72%

Single Side Lung Damage

16%

Double Side Lung Damage

12%

 

 

Weaning

5.5 months

Lung Damage

+

-

+

5%

21%

-

10%

64%

 

  • 21% of calves did not have lung damage at weaning but had lung damage at 5.5 months
    • Calves are getting lung damage during the post-weaning phase when calves are grouped together
  • 10% of calves with lung damage at weaning did not have lung damage at 5.5 months
    • Lung damage can heal over time
    • 15 of the 18 calves who didn’t have lung damage at 5.5 months only had lung damage on 1 side of their body

 

Body Weight Growth

  • Weaning

Lung Score

Birthweight (lbs.)

Age (days)

Weight (lbs.)

ADG (lbs./day)

% in Each Score

1

96

65

207

1.66

18%

2

92

65

197

1.58

41%

3

95

65

197

1.44

20%

4

91

64

185

1.37

15%

5

87

65

195

1.68

5%

6

102

63

145

0.79

1%

 

Lung Damage

Birthweight (lbs.)

Age (days)

Weight (lbs.)

ADG (lbs./day)

% in Each Score

No Damage

94

65

199

1.56

79%

Single Side

89

64

193

1.50

15%

Double Side

92

64

168

1.27

7%

 

  • Average 167 d old (5.5 months)

Lung Score

Birthweight (lbs.)

Age (days)

Weight (lbs.)

ADG (lbs./day)

% In Each Score

1

95

170

451

2.02

22%

2

91

167

431

1.94

39%

3

96

163

431

1.84

8%

4

96

168

409

1.82

13%

5

97

167

375

1.62

13%

6

99

163

313

1.50

4%

 

Lung Score

Birthweight (lbs.)

Age (days)

Weight (lbs.)

ADG (lbs./day)

% of Animals

No Lung Damage

93

168

434

1.96

72%

Single Side

97

167

399

1.72

16%

Double Side

99

166

358

1.59

12%

 

Heifer Breeding Data

  • Age of conception (41 heifers with 5-month lung score records and were diagnosed pregnant)
    • No lung damage: 449 days (30 calves)
    • Lung Damage: 463 days (11 calves)
  • Age of conception (41 heifers with 5-month lung score records and were diagnosed pregnant)
    • Lung score 1-3: 449 days (30 calves)
    • Lung Score 4: 449 days (8 calves)
    • Lung Score 5-6: 499 days (3 calves)

*This is a trend and there are not enough calves to prove this data. Upon observation, 60% of the calves with lung damage (>4 on one or both sides of lungs) who were of age to be pregnant and were open or not bred yet had 5 or 6 lung score and 40% of calves had a score of 4. This suggests that calves with scores of 4 were not as severely affected by respiratory disease as those with a 4 or 5*

 

 

Thoughts based on the year of lung scanning

  1. Death Rate
    • 2019 (Mortality-Culling Rates of Dairy Calves and Replacement Heifers and Its Risk Factors in Holstein Cattle)
      • 3 to 60 days: 5.5%
      • 61-365: 7.4%
    • Lueken Dairy
      • 0-60 days: 17%
      • 61-365: 11%
    • The highest periods of death are from 0-30 days and 100-200 days of age
    • Areas to look into for death rate decrease in calves 0-30 days old
      • Newborn care/colostrum management
        • Good quality and amount of colostrum
        • Timely colostrum consumption
      • Antibiotic treatment of calves
        • 73% of weaned calved treated with Excede at an average of 6 days old
          1. Use another antibiotic (resflor or draxxin)
          2. Consider using banamine (resflor or draxxinkp have banamine in the drug) to help with fever
      • Look into the milk being fed to calves
        • Waste milk/milk replacer/bulk tank milk
        • If waste milk then bacteria count should be checked
    • Areas to look into for death rate decrease in calves 100-200 days old
      • Calves are getting respiratory disease during the grouping period
      • Organize groups of calves in an all in and all out system
        • Place calves in a pen and don’t add or take out calves
        • Consider administering intranasal vaccination (talk with veterinarian) before grouping or at group to deal with viral respiratory
      • When bringing back to the big barn at calf hutches consider grouping by weight instead of one big group

2. Lung Scanning

    • Calves with lung scores of 4 on either or both sides should be reconsidered before culling
    • Lung scores are not always final. Respiratory disease is like a bell curve. Lung score can increase and disease as the respiratory disease evolve
    • When is the best time to lung scan for increased accuracy of treatment diagnoses that will help with death rates?
      • 2-3 weeks after entering into group housing
      • Increase accuracy of diagnosing lung damage and allow animals to heal efficiently if treated in a timely manner
    • When is the best time to lung scan calves and cull animals?
      • Before leaving for heifer raiser
        • Slower growing and higher conception age
        • Other data has shown that in the proper conditions calves with lung damage will continue to grow and, in some cases, even catch up to other healthy calves later in life
          1. Instead of using animals for reproductive purposes put them in a fat lot to grow and become protein for others instead of selling as a young cull cow after freshening
  1.  

 

 

Hunley Creek Heifer Farm

100 calves brought in on 9/28/2020 and 50 calves were lung scanned and weights were recorded

Average weight: 437 pounds

Initial Lung Scores:

  • No lung damage (Score 1, 2, or 3): 76%
  • Lung damage (Score 4, 5, or 6): 24%

Vaccination Weight (10/15/2020)

  • Average Weight: 423 pounds
  • ADG (9/28/2020 to 10/15/2020)
    • No lung damage: -0.37 pounds/day
    • Lung damage: -1.1 pounds/day
  • 16 of the 38 calves without initial lung damage gained lung damage during this time period
    • Total percentage with lung damage as of 10/15/2020: 56%

Castration Weight (11/18/2020)

  • Average Weight: 479 pounds
  • ADG

 

Lung Status

ADG 10/15/20 to 11/18/20

(lbs./day)

ADG from 9/28/20 to 11/18/20

(lbs./day)

Lung damage prior to arrival

1.80

0.93

Lung damage after arrival

1.39

0.69

No lung damage

1.69

0.93

 

Overall Summary

  • From the first weight (9/28/20) to the last weight (11/18/20) ADG
    • No lung damage: 0.90 pounds/day
    • Lung damage (score 4, 5, 6): 0.78 pounds/day
  • Comparing ADG (first to last weight) of calves with a score 5 or 6 to other lung scores
    • No Lung damage: 0.99 pounds/day
    • Lung damage of 5 or 6: 0.31 pounds/day
  • Calves who arrived with lung damage had a larger reduction in ADG after arrival compared to calves without lung damage; however, these calves adapted better to their new environment and ended with the same ADG as calves without lung damage. Calves who developed lung damage due to the transition period had lower ADG throughout the recorded time period.
    • From the analysis, calves who adapted lung damage after arrival were on average smaller on arrival (418 pounds compared to 444-pound average of calves without lung damage)
  • Final Lung Scores
    • No Lung Damage: 40%
    • Lung Damage: 48%
    • Died: 12%

 

26 calves arrived on 12/2/2021 and were lung scanned on arrival with a 0% lung damage rate

  • All 26 calves were housed in the same pen after arrival
  • Upon the second scan, 7 of the 26 calves increased their lung score by 2 points (to at least a 3 in score)
    • When looking at the average weight of calves who had increased lung scans at the second scan versus not
      • Score 1 and 2 average weight at arrival: 569 pounds; 1.34 lb./day
      • Score of 3, 4, 5, 6: 460 pounds; 0.49 lb./day
    • This set of data again shows that calves who are smaller upon arrival are more susceptible to lung damage

Should background calves be scanned on arrival?

Average Weight of Calf Group Brought In

% of Calves with lung damage on arrival

535

9.70%

437

24%

526

2.70%

536

0%

539

0%

508

0%

487

20%

 

  • The average weight of background calves arriving on the farm was 509 pounds. The calf weights ranged from 300 pounds to 900 pounds, but the majority was in that 500 pound range. When the groups that were brought in were averaged separately, I noticed a trend on if they had lung damage or not. Smaller calves tended to have more lung damage upon arrival than the larger averaging groups, and to my surprise there were several groups that did not have any lung damage on arrival.
    • Due to this finding, lung scanning most groups of calves on arrival is not efficient or cost effective for the farm. Lung scanning also increases the amount of time each calf is in the chute, and lung scanning on arrival increases the stress level of calves.
    • The more effective and less time consuming/stressful way to sort animals on arrival would be by weight and not lung score unless the producer is bringing in a smaller weight averaging group of calves.
      • If calves’ average weight at purchasing is below 500 then calves should be scanned and those who have lung damage on arrival should be treated.

Should lung scanning be incorporated into the beef backgrounding system at all?

  • At Hunley Creek, calves are put through the chute system 2 to 3 times depending on if they are heifers or bulls at arrival (3 times if calves are bulls and need to be castrated).
  • Would it be more beneficial to lung scan calves on the 2nd time through the chute instead of the first?
    • 50 calves arrived and scanned on 9/28/2020
      • 24% had lung damage at arrival
      • 58% of calves had lung damage when they were scanned for the second time, and lung damage increased by 34%
    • 26 calves arrive on 12/2/21
      • 0% had lung damage at arrival
      • 15% of calves had lung damage (>4) after the second lung scan with another 11.5% whose lung scored increase 2 points (lung score of 3)
    • 10 calves arrived on 12/10/2020
      • 0% had lung damage at arrival
      • 20% had lung damage after the second lung scan with another 20% whose lung score increased by 2 points.

       *Lung damage does increase as calves arrive at Hunley Creek Heifer Farm; therefore, lung scanning at the 2nd time through the chute would be worth allocating the extra time to lung scan the calves. These calves will be treated with antibiotics decrease the lung damage and allow the animal to feel good enough to eat*

  • Through lung scanning at Lindauer Dairy Farm, I have confirmed that lung damage can be healed over time if treated with antibiotics in a timely manner.
  • How many weeks after should background calves be put through the chute to lung scan for the 2nd time?
    • I did not have the opportunity to scan enough calves to pinpoint the exact week the majority of lung damage would show on the ultrasound machine. Based on my research with the dairy farms, I believe the most optimum time for this would be two weeks after arrival.
      • Calves were scanned anywhere from 5 to 1 week after arrival. The second scan was based on how the calves were eating, looking, and if we were having a lot of sick ones. Because we put them through the chute and vaccinate during this second scan, we waited to put them through until the majority were doing well and when we had time on the farm.
Participation Summary
17 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

17 Farmers
18 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Farm Research Summaries 

At the end of 2022 I created a summary/fact sheet for the 3 partnering farms that I have been scanning calves since the beginning of the grant. I was able to sit down with each farm and explain these summary sheets and what I have been seeing from collecting the data. During these meetings I was also able to display pictures that I captured from the ultrasound machine showing what I was looking at/for when scanning each calf. In the fact sheet, specifically for Lueken and Lindauer Dairy Farms, I included a section about my thoughts from the year of lung scanning on each farm. I explained some areas of opportunity to improve respiratory disease on their farms and how I would use lung scanning in the future. Currently the dairy farms are still processing all of the information given to them and it is unclear whether or not they will continue lung scanning in their future management practices. Hunley Creek will be incorporating lung scanning into their beef backgrounding operation after all of the research findings from this grant. 

Lung Scan Photo of healthy lung tissue:

Lung Scan Photo of damaged lung tissue:

Project Summaries:

 Hunley Creek Background calves lung scanning diagnostics

Lueken Dairy Farm Grant Results

Francis Lindauer and Sons Dairy Farm Lung Scanning Summary

Lung scanning pictures of calves over times:

Lung Scan Photo progression

 

Indiana Dairy Producers Meeting

On June 22, 2021 I was able to attend and speak at the Indiana Dairy Producers meeting about the research done for this grant. Following the presentation, I provided the members in attendance with a post-survey and we received 28 responses from a room of 60-70 people listening. Using this method of outreach I was able to talk to dairy farmers and dairy support companies  from all over the state of Indiana as well as other areas of the US. Since the IDP meeting I have not talked with anyone from the meeting about implementing this technology on their farm and I go over the reasons in which I believe that this is the case in the learning outcomes section of the grant.  My hope is that the farmers and dairy support staff went back to their surrounding areas and talked about lung scanning with their veterinarians and amongst their local dairy communities. 

Hurst IDP Lung Scanning Presentation

Survey Results.docx

 

Progressive Dairy Magazine Article

Throughout the grant period I was also able to publish an article in Progressive Dairy magazine in the January issue:

https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/calves-heifers/considerations-for-a-heifer-lung-scanning-program 

Considerations for a heifer lung-scanning program _ 0122PD

In this article, I was able to talk about lung scanning and how I believe farms could incorporate it into their heifer raising programs. Since the article was recently published I am not sure of what the outcome it has had on the community reading the magazine. 

Learning Outcomes

3 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

Grant Objectives 

  1. Lung scan dairy replacement heifers around weaning (60 days) and four months as well as periodic body weights to gather growth data and best practices for using lung scanning on commercial dairy farms (ex. What is the best age to lung scan calves or do calves need to be scanned multiple times during their life?). 
  2. Determine validity, usability, and practicality of utilizing lung scanning on beef backgrounding operation.
  3. Report findings from lung scanning results and detailed overview of the lung scanning process at the Indiana Dairy Producers Annual Meeting (Meeting Brochure) following with a post survey identifying the willingness of farms to utilize this lung scanning service. 

 

Objective 1: 

Throughout the grant period several ages of dairy calves have been lung scanned: 3 weeks, weaning (~60 days), calves who are between 80-100 days, 5.5 month old calves, and 12-13 month old calves. To my knowledge, there has not been much if any research on lung scanning dairy calves over 120 days of age and most of the research is done on calves before they are weaned. Therefore, this grant research has provided some valuable data on how lung damage evolves over time. 

After lung scanning 3 week old calves on Lindauer dairy farm, I found that 17% of calves had lung damage. This is a notable percentage but during this growing phase, I noticed that the clinical symptoms of BRD (bovine respiratory disease) were more present in the younger calves and the farmer could adequately treat without the use of lung scanning, and by the time I lung scanned the calves they usually had already identified those that would need antibiotic treatment.

I lung scanned weaning age calves at both Lindauer and Lueken Dairy Farms with 33% and 22% of calves having lung damage at weaning.  This percentage has increased from the three week old lung scans. Weaning age is the typical time period that calves are lung scanned in most research trials. According to a USDA heifer raiser report, only 11% of dairy heifers were treated with antibiotics prior to weaning. As you can see, respiratory disease is a larger issue than presented by this report. Other, more recent research reported from Elanco Animal Health has found that a more realistic percentage of respiratory treatment rate is 36% after they performed a study using 104,100 dairy animals up to 120 days of age. Therefore, most research suggests that the best time to lung scan calves is at this weaning age to maximize the number of animals leaving the weaning phase with clean, healthy lungs. This is a great time to lung scan calves, and I would suggest lung scanning these calves at weaning (when most are in individual hutches) and grouping those with compromised lungs during the post-weaning phase with an increased amount of space (the first time most dairy heifers will be in a group of animals), so that they have the best opportunity to thrive during the next stage. I would group all calves with lung damage together, but focus most highly on calves who have a score of 5 or 6 or have a 4 or greater on both sides of their lungs. 

When lung scanning calves at 5.5 months old at Lueken Dairy Farm, I was surprised to see the results show an increased number of animals with lung damage at 28%. There was a larger gap between their weight and ADG (average daily gain)  than I originally anticipated (40-128 pound difference). When investigating further into this age group I found that 21% of the calves who had lung damage at 5.5 months old did not have lung damage at weaning and 10% of calves who had lung damage at weaning did not have lung damage at 5.5 months old. This data suggests that lung scanning calves at weaning may not be the most accurate time point in a calf’s life to lung scan. 

Additionally, with the data that 10% of calves who have lung damage at weaning did not have lung damage at 5.5 months and my own observations, I wanted to see if lung damage could heal over time and if treating the calf with antibiotics after scanning would make the lung damage subside. I lung scanned 56 heifers over a three week period after they entered the group housing system. I noticed the average age of treating calves during this time period was 40 days old and that is when the Lindauer’s have the calves in a group housing system. Additionally, I was seeing more lung damage than the farm was treating for which suggests that calves have subclinical respiratory disease that the farm is adequately identifying. Through this research I was able to capture pictures and lung scores proving that lung damage can heal over time and in an efficient manner when treated with antibiotics. 

After completing all of this research, there were two time periods that I am suggesting the dairy farms lung scan their calves. 

  1. Lung scanning to treat
  2. Lung scanning to cull (remove animals from the possibility of becoming a replacement heifer)

Instead of selecting a universal age to lung scan calves, I have selected time points in a calves life. Every farm is different and their calves are managed in different ways, so the age that these timepoints occur may not be the same. I believe that if farmers adopt lung scanning 2-3 weeks after the first grouping of heifers, they would be able to effectively treat calves for respiratory disease and decrease the amount of subclinical cases on their farm. By incorporating this lung scanning into their management system, the number of animals retaining lung damage after the weaning phase (for Lueken Dairy 21%) will decrease. 

I also suggest that farms incorporate lung scanning in order to select their replacement heifers. After collecting some reproduction data, and reading other research, calves with lung damage do not become pregnant as efficiently as those who did not have lung damage if they become pregnant at all. Lung damage that was there can heal over time and not be detectable based on the results I found from lung scanning 12-13 month old dairy heifers. The lung damage created during early life (around weaning) continues to alter heifer survival and reproductive reproductive performance. Therefore, I suggest lung scanning calves before they leave for a heifer raiser or when farms are putting calves through a chute system to vaccinate (between 4-6 months old). By doing this, calves do not have to be put through a chute system an additional time. By lung scanning calves and culling them, the farm will save money by not sending calves to the heifer raiser that are not reproductively sound. Instead, those animals can be sent to a feedlot system. I know based on research with backgrounding calves and weights of heifers after one year old that those with lung damage can adapt and grow in a feedlot system. This job requires less energy than putting heifers in a replacement scenario where they have to reproduce and make large amounts of milk. 

Even though I have presented the two supporting farmers with convincing data about why lung scanning should be implemented on their farms, neither of them have officially adopted using it. I believe that incorporating any new technology or service that costs money, takes time and a lot of consideration especially since dairy farms are seemingly always strapped for money in their businesses. Since raising replacement heifers is over a two year process per animal, it is hard to see that such a small time period in a calf's life can have a large impact on her future. From talking with the two cooperating farms, they are interested to the see the data of when the heifers I lung scanned have their first baby and enter into the milking herd. They want to see how those heifers with prior lung damage perform in the herd. After they see this data for themselves I believe that both will be willing to add this technology to their herds. 

 

Objective 2: 

Lung scanning beef backgrounding calves is more of a challenge compared to scanning dairy calves. In order to scan beef calves, they have to go through a chute system. This alone makes lung scanning take longer than scanning dairy calves in a small group or in a hutch system. The chute we use at Hunley Creek works great for lung scanning calves because it has a removable metal piece by the front shoulder of the animals. This would not be the case in every location that raises beef backgrounding calves. Therefore, the first hurdle to using lung scanning on these operations would be to make sure there is a safe handling facility for the technician to lung scan calves. 

If the farm has an adequate chute system, then the lung scanning works just like it does for dairy animals. Throughout the grant period several timepoints of animals were scanned. Originally, I believed that the best time to lung scan the backgrounder calves would be upon arrival. At Hunley Creek, we administer an intranasal vaccination to help with viral respiratory disease the day after the calves arrive, so I thought that this would be the best time to scan. Based on the lung scan we would treat calves who have lung damage and sort them based on their scores. After scanning at this time, we found that the majority of calves do not arrive with lung damage, but because they are going through an extremely stressful period (transported, comingled, and are on different feed), most of the lung damage appears after arrival. I no longer believe that lung scanning calves on arrival would be the best time to lung scan them. Also, when calves are lung scanned, they are in the chute longer, so adding that extra stress does not help the calves. 

Calves are weighed upon arrival at the farm as well, and my research suggests that the lighter calves (under 500 pounds) are most susceptible to getting lung damage. So, instead of grouping calves on arrival based on lung scan, I believe it would be more beneficial to group calves based on their weight. Grouping calves based on weight would allow the lighter calves the opportunity to have more space and less competition at the feed bunk. If the lighter calves have a better opportunity to eat upon arrival, the hope is that there will be less lung damage. 

Instead of lung scanning calves when they arrive on the farm, I believe it would be better to lung scan them a few weeks after arrival. At Hunley Creek we put the calves through the chute one to two more times after arrival to vaccinate and castrate if they are a bull. Lung scanning at one of these time points, specifically the vaccinated time point would be more beneficial to the farmer. Even though lung scanning does add time in the chute, I believe that the lung damage you find from this scan and can be treated with antibiotics will outweigh the extra stress in the chute system. I believe that this lung scan would be valuable because calves do not always show their physical symptoms especially if they are new to the farm. Some farmers will opt to use metaphylaxis treatment (antibiotic treatment of all animals in a single group who have been presumably infected) for some groups of animals, and I think that by using lung scanning the farmer could possibly do away with this treatment and provide a more targeted treatment therapy for those animals with actual lung damage. By lung scanning, the hope is that antibiotics would only be used on the animals that absolutely need it. 

More research needs to be done using lung scanning for backgrounding calves and when the right time to lung scan the calves would be. Through my research, I was able to lung scan calves at various time points after arrival, but I did not have the opportunity to scan enough calves to pinpoint the exact week the majority of lung damage would show on the ultrasound machine. Based on my research with the dairy farms, I believe the most optimum time for this would be two weeks after arrival. 

Based on the research performed during this grant period, I can conclude that lung scanning on beef backgrounding calves could be extremely valuable to farms if they implemented it into their management system. The usability and practicality of implementing this technology on farms will be harder than on most dairy farms, and some farms would argue that the lung scanning takes too much time to perform in a chute-based system that they would not be able to implement it.

Hunley Creek plans to incorporate lung scanning on their beef backgrounding operation based on all of the data presented from this grant. 

 

 

Objective 3: 

The Indiana Dairy Producers meeting was held at the end of June 2021. The meeting turned out to have great attendance and there were at least 60 people in the room to listen to my presentation. I have attached the presentation to the final report for the grant reviewers to see. Overall, I believe that the presentation went over well with the audience and I received 28 responses from my survey. Ten of the surveys were from dairy farmers and 18 were from dairy nutritionists, dairy support staff, and other dairy industry related people. Seventy-six percent of those who answered the survey owned or served farms with over 1,000 cows, and 79% of those people had heard of lung scanning before the presentation. This was an interesting fact to learn, and one I did not anticipate, so I did not have a follow up question asking if anyone had already implemented lung scanning on their farms. Also, in the post-survey the participants were asked if they kept track of antibiotic treatments and heifer weights. Over 50% of them answered sometimes and no, so I can assume not many producers have implemented scanning on their farm. I also asked what hesitations farms had about implementing this technology on their farms. These hesitations included skill level, labor, efficacy of lung scanning, and the cost it would require farms to implement. I address these concerns in a magazine article I wrote for the Progressive Dairy Magazine that was published January 2022. 

After the presentation, the audience had several great questions, and I stayed around a little while after to answer any additional questions the audience may have had. Unfortunately, no one approached me after the meeting and I did not get any additional emails or calls after the presentation asking to discuss lung scanning further. After reflecting on the outcomes of the presentation I believe that there were several factors at play in which people do not want to talk about lung scanning.

  1. In regards to the follow-ups after the IDP meeting, I believe that since the meeting was held in June, this was the first time many people were out and about in a large group setting since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Due to this fact, most people were not as concerned with the information presented at the meeting as catching up with people that they had not seen in over a year. I believe that this had a larger impact on the outcomes of this outreach program than I could have ever intended. Therefore, even though 55% of survey responses indicated that farmers would be interested in using lung scanning on their farm (the other 45% was maybe, 0% no), the information was not as important to follow up on as the human connection was to everyone in the room. 
  2. Respiratory disease in animals is something nobody wants to talk about especially if you are a farmer because it is a negative problem that farmers have to face. Any human in general does not like to talk about the “problems” in their business, especially with other industry people, because they see it as a flaw. I can compare farmers talking about respiratory disease to friends comparing how much money they make in their profession, people just do not talk about it. People innately do not want to talk about areas that their farm needs to improve upon unless the problem is so extremely bad that they need help fixing it. 
    1. Based on the survey, over half of the farmers do not even keep track of their treatment records; therefore, many do not realize they may have a problem with respiratory disease. In my opinion, many farmers believe that the lung scanning is an extra cost and use of labor that is not needed. In order for dairies to implement this technology they need to understand that respiratory disease is a larger problem on farms than many realize and that the increased cost and time to lung scan will ultimately save the farmer money in the long run. 
    2. I believe that lung scanning is a technology similar to what artificial insemination and pregnancy testing cattle were when they were first introduced into the industry. The technology was not accepted at first, but now there are very few farms who do not use those technologies. 
    3. I also believe that lung scanning could be used to help explain to the general public how much farmers care about their animals and that they are doing their absolute best they can to keep them healthy. When I am explaining lung scanning to people who do not know what it is, I compare it to going to the doctor for a checkup. Every time us humans go to the doctor for a checkup, we step on the weight scale and the doctor checks our lungs with the stethoscope. As a technician, I am doing the same thing for animals when I am lung scanning. I weigh the calves and I check their lungs using a picture from the ultrasound machine instead of a stethoscope. Adopting this technology on farms will allow consumers to trust farmers even more and that they are keeping their animals happy and healthy.  

Project Outcomes

1 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.